The Nature of a Gentleman’s Dominion: al-Jāḥiẓ on Slavery and Human Difference
by Michael Payne, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
In this talk, I argue that al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 255/868-869) described human difference with concepts that were entangled with vocabularies of animal husbandry, natural philosophy, and philology. In his corpus, methods of discerning human difference were often applied to enslaved people. The race-making that emerged from these practices was in part generated by how human and animal chattel were both subject to essentializing, biologizing, and taxonomizing forms of knowledge. Through attention to the relationship between race-making, scientific terminology, and slavery in the works of al-Jāḥiẓ, we can see how al-Jāḥiẓ was elaborating a notion of adab in which discernment was married to dominion.
Michael Payne is a postdoctoral researcher at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and is a part of the ERC Project on Animals in Philosophy of the Islamic World. Michael received his PhD in 2020 from Brown University’s Department of Religious Studies. He is a scholar of early Islam and late antique Christianity in Iraq. He specializes in the history of kalām, animals, and race.